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Ticketmaster blasts pro-bot ticket touts as “delusional”

Lawyers for Ticketmaster have slammed claims by Prestige Entertainment that its buying up of thousands of Hamilton tickets with bots is somehow beneficial to TM

By Jon Chapple on 12 Jan 2018

Hamilton, Ticketmaster-Prestige Entertainment lawsuit

Daveed Diggs as Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton on Broadway


image © Joan Marcus

Ticketmaster has hit back at what it calls “delusional posturing” by big-time ticket touting operation Prestige Entertainment, after the latter had the “temerity” to claim in court its alleged hoovering up of tickets to Broadway hit Hamilton using bots was “beneficial to Ticketmaster and its consumers”.

Ticketmaster accuses Connecticut-based Prestige of using an army of bots to purchase from its site around 30,000 tickets for Hamilton and other shows – a violation of its terms of service and, since the passage of the Bots Act in December 2016, illegal in the United States. According to the US$10m lawsuit, filed in the US district court for central California last October, Prestige was, over a period of 20 months, able to acquire 30–40% of TM’s total Hamilton inventory.

According to court documents, Prestige “commandeer[s] significant portions of available tickets for popular events, and, overall, have placed at least 313,528 ticket orders from 9,047 different accounts”.

Prestige has since sought to have the suit dismissed, arguing that Ticketmaster’s lawyers’ argument – that the use of bots, which need to repeatedly copy website pages “far in excess” of normal browsing in order to operate, violates the company’s copyright –  would make any normal ticket buyer a copyright infringer, as as all web browsers download pages in order to display them.

“It would be impossible for anyone to access plaintiff’s [Ticketmaster’s] website without exposure to a claim of infringement and violation of law, with plaintiff having the right to pick and choose who gets prosecuted,” wrote Prestige’s attorneys (H/T TicketNews/Law360).

“It is Ticketmaster that bears the brunt of consumer discontent for a perceived lack of fairness in the ticket market”

It is also allegedly told Ticketmaster its buying up of thousands of tickets for hot shows is a good thing for the Live Nation-owned business, the world’s largest primary ticket reseller.

The ‘everyone’s a copyright infringer’ argument, say TM lawyers Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, is a “straw man”: While the company “expressly permits” its customers to “view” the site for non-commercial purposes – ie ‘normal’ ticket buying – copying “excessive pages at an excessive speed in order to purchase an excessive quantity of tickets for the purposes of reselling them” is in clear violation of Ticketmaster’s terms of use.

“Online commerce – and online ticketing especially – is under constant attack from illicit bot use,” Ticketmaster attorney Robert H. Platt told judge Otis D. Wright on Monday. “Ticketmaster has spent years in a war of attrition with users of bots, diverting substantial time, energy and resources in an often-vain effort to maintain a level playing field for consumers who simply want a fair chance to buy a ticket. California, New York, and the federal government have passed laws expressly prohibiting the use of bots to buy tickets, but defendants [Prestige], addicted to unseemly ticket-resale profits, remain undeterred. Ticketmaster therefore turns, as it has successfully in the past, to litigation against major bot offenders.”

“In their motion to dismiss Ticketmaster’s complaint,” Platt added, “defendants have the temerity to describe their prolific bot use as beneficial to Ticketmaster and its consumers”. “Such delusional posturing”, he said, is “no substitute for valid legal argument”, recommending the request to dismiss be “denied in its entirety”.

“Such delusional posturing is “no substitute for valid legal argument”

Should the suit continue, Ticketmaster is hoping for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, believed to be around $10 million, and a court order to stop Prestige’s bot use.

Highlighting the perceived damage to the Ticketmaster brand by resale operations such as Prestige, Platt says: “Even assuming […] defendants pay stated ticket prices and fees when purchasing tickets, they still inflict significant harm on Ticketmaster, its clients, and legitimate consumers who simply want a fair chance to buy tickets without resorting to extortionate resale prices.

“By using bots and other methods to angle for an unfair advantage, defendants interfere with the ability of Ticketmaster and its clients to gauge and manage ticket demand [and] circumvent flows of commerce on the website and mobile app, and require Ticketmaster to go to extraordinary lengths and expense to try to detect and prevent the use of bots and to cancel purchases where bot use is timely detected.

“To  the extent these nefarious efforts succeed, it is Ticketmaster that bears the brunt of consumer discontent for a perceived lack of fairness in the ticket market.”

The next hearing is set for 5 February.

 


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